Skip navigation
Oklahoma Arts CouncilOklahoma Arts Council

Carol Beesley
Then and Now: Work from 40 years

East Gallery - February 20 - April 22, 2012

Carol Beesley
Carol Beesley Photo by Shevaun Williams

Carol Beesley has been fascinated by the American landscape all of her life, and she is well-known for her flamboyant paintings that honor the scenery. With hues of pink, chartreuse, and turquoise, the landscape is enlivened on her canvas. She says she's always loved bright colors as well as the descriptions of landscapes in books and the images on old postcards. Yet, she's never painted a place that she hasn't visited herself. "These paintings are notations of what is seen in a mix with the imagination. I try to get the heart of the place and just express my experience of it," says the artist. Similar to postcards which capture the nostalgic intensity of seeing the Grand Canyon in person, Beesley sees her paintings in the same way. "My paintings are, in a sense, an extension of the experience people have. It is heightened and more intense when you remember it. And, I want people to be joyous when they see my paintings."

Painting by Carol Beesley
Untitled by Carol Beesley

While drawing her landscape compositions, Beesley stays true and representational to the subject. It is with color that she pays homage to the subject matter. "I do the color that really heightens and represents my experience and love of what I'm painting. The colors really reflect my personality most of the time. I've never been able to work if I'm upset or depressed."

Beesley's style is strikingly recognizable. It is with sensitivity that she captures the formations of rocks like a portrait artist captures the folds of a face. The endless shades of blue that can only be found in an Oklahoma sky dance on the canvas. One can almost feel the warmth emitting from the rocks baking in the sun of the west. And as fantastical as the images may seem, the familiarity is inescapable for anyone who has visited the western United States.

Painting by Carol Beesley
Untitled by Carol Beesley

"The paintings in this exhibition reflect my life in art in Oklahoma, my years in New Mexico and my return to Oklahoma in 2009," says Beesley. "At least half of these works have been borrowed from friends and family, all lovers of art. I am extremely grateful to these supporters for giving my work destinations and homes. I always want viewers to enjoy the colorful, heightened vision of the real places depicted and to know the place 'for the first time' when encountered.

Beesley taught art at the University of Oklahoma for 24 years before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1997. She lived there for 12 years before University of Oklahoma President David Boren commissioned her to create artwork for the Schusterman Learning Center on the Tulsa campus of OU. She began traveling back and forth between Oklahoma and New Mexico during the commission, and it was then that she realized Oklahoma was where she belonged. She moved back to Oklahoma in 2009. As Beesley explains, "One of the last shows of my work before leaving Oklahoma was entitled Oklahoma, My Home. I am indeed home. I live each day filled with gratitude for all the blessings of my life - my family, my friends, and the never ending joy of sharing my work with this beautiful place."

Painting by Carol Beesley
Untitled by Carol Beesley

Beesley's work has been featured in solo exhibitions around the world and honored with many awards including the 2000 Juror's Choice Award at "Art In the Woods" in Overland, Kansas; 1999 Commissioned stained glass window for the Catlett Music Center, University of Oklahoma; 1997 Commissioned painting by the College of Fine Arts, University of Oklahoma to honor Dean David G. Woods; and 1995 Painting presented by President David Boren to the Board of Regents, University of Oklahoma Center, Tulsa, OK. In 1998, Beesley completed a mural based on the geological formations of the Arbuckle Mountains found in southeastern Oklahoma. The mural was installed at the University of Oklahoma on September 14, 1998, and was dedicated to her late husband, Composer Michael Hennagin (1936-1993).